Oct 25, 2018

What to watch in Trump's drug pricing speech

President Trump and HHS Secretary Alex Azar. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump is headed to the Department of Health and Human Services this afternoon for a speech on drug prices with HHS Secretary Alex Azar.

What we're watching: Expect a heavy emphasis on Medicare Part B — the part that pays for drugs administered in a doctor's office.

  • Flashback: One of the more ambitious proposals in Trump and Azar's drug-pricing blueprint calls for shifting some drugs from Medicare Part B, which pays fixed prices, into Medicare Part D, where private companies negotiate discounts.

Driving the news: Medicare pays almost twice as much as other industrialized countries for many of the most expensive prescription drugs, according to a new report HHS released this morning that's focused on Part B drugs.

Details: HHS looked at the prices for 27 drugs, comparing them to the prices in 16 similar countries, mostly in Europe. Together, those 27 products make up about 60% of all spending in Part B.

  • The U.S. had the highest price for 19 of those 27 drugs.
  • HHS only found 1 drug whose U.S. price was lower than its average international price. Among the other 26, the U.S. prices were as much as 7 times higher.
  • Medicare pays an average of 1.8 times more than those other countries for these drugs.

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George Zimmerman sues Buttigieg and Warren for $265M

George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida, in November 2013. Photo: Joe Burbank-Pool/Getty Images

George Zimmerman filed a lawsuit in Polk County, Fla. seeking $265 million in damages from Democratic presidential candidates Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren, accusing them of defaming him to "garner votes in the black community."

Context: Neither the Massachusetts senator nor the former Southbend mayor tweeted his name in the Feb. 5 posts on what would've been the 25th birthday of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teen Zimmerman fatally shot in 2012. But Zimmerman alleges they "acted with actual malice" to defame him.

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Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The relative civility of the last eight Democratic debates was thrown by the wayside Wednesday night, the first debate to feature the billionaire "boogeyman," Michael Bloomberg, whose massive advertising buys and polling surge have drawn the ire of the entire field.

The big picture: Pete Buttigieg captured the state of the race early on, noting that after Super Tuesday, the "two most polarizing figures on this stage" — Bloomberg and democratic socialist Bernie Sanders — could be the only ones left competing for the nomination. The rest of candidates fought to stop that momentum.

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Buttigieg and Klobuchar in Las Vegas on Feb. 19. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg went after Sen. Amy Klobuchar on the debate stage Wednesday for voting to confirm Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan and voting in 2007 to make English the national language.

What she's saying: "I wish everyone was as perfect as you, Pete, but let me tell you what it's like to be in the arena. ... I did not one bit agree with these draconian policies to separate kids from their parents, and in my first 100 days, I would immediately change that."